More than a year after pilots first spotted what they believed to be a person zipping across the sky around LAX in a jetpack—a being imaginatively christened “Jetpack Man” by some—investigators at the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration are floating the proposition that the would be Rocketeers were nothing but hot air.
“One working theory is that pilots might have seen balloons,” the experts said in statements released to NBC News .
They came to the conclusion after the outlet obtained police video and photos that appear to show a human-shaped toy balloon cruising through the air above Beverly Hills, and the idea jibed with images captured by a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter last year of what is believed to have been a life-sized Jack Skellington balloon that may have broken loose from a Halloween display.
Jetpack Man was seen zooming around LAX on August 30, 2020 at an altitude of 3,000 feet; on October 14, 2020 at 6,000 feet; and on July 28 of this year at 5,000 feet. But officials said Monday that more than a year of investigation has not uncovered a single new witness or further video evidence.
“The FAA has worked closely with the FBI to investigate every reported jetpack sighting,” the FAA said. “So far, none of these sightings have been verified.”
Retired airline pilot and aviation consultant Ross Aimer backed the official theory, telling NBC, “This now explains that this could possibly be what they saw. There’s a very good possibility the previous ones were also balloons and pilots mistook them as jetpacks. This is a better explanation to me and to the aviation community.”
David Mayman, the founder of Los Angeles-based Jetpack Aviation, also dismissed jetpacks as the means by which the Rocket Man or Lady is propelled through the air, saying his machines hold a dozen gallons of fuel—good for only about 10 minutes of flight—and couldn’t have reached the altitudes seen by the pilots.
“To climb and descend—it takes some time to do that,” he said. “You’d just be out of fuel.”
However, Mayman also boasted last year that his devices can indeed achieve heights of up to 15,000, although he maintains that the speedy, high-flying fun is not for sale and that lessons are closely monitored.
Mayman does not believe that some lone hero stole one of his contraptions or constructed one of their own, but rather that a remote-control drone with an inflatable proxy-human attached is the culprit.
“Any teen could put this together with parts from China,” he said. “You could be talking about a bright high school kid or college kid—they could build something like this really easily.”
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